Located on the old Lancaster roadway between Philadelphia and Radner, the General Wayne Inn has been in continuous operation since 1704 when Robert Jones, a Quaker, decided to serve travelers with a restaurant and a place of lodging. The land was purchased from fellow Quaker William Penn and was originally called the Wayside Inn. Because of the inn's location near Merion, the site of numerous battles during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), it was renamed the General Wayne Inn in 1793 in honor of a local hero, General Anthony Wayne (1745–1796). During the colonies' war of independence, the inn played host to General George Washington and the Marquis de la Fayette, as well as a number of their antagonists, the British Redcoats and their Hessian mercenaries. From time to time throughout its history, the inn has also served as a post office, a general store, and a social center for newly arrived immigrants.
No longer an inn, the three-story stone and timber building still serves meals as well as an extensive menu of ghosts—some say as many as 17. When Barton Johnson bought the General Wayne Inn in 1970, he was well aware of its reputation for being haunted. In 1972, New Jersey psychics Jean and Bill Quinn conducted a seance in which at least 17 different entities declared their presence and provided a bit of their personal history. Johnson, his wife, and their two sons also participated in the seance.
When Wilhelm, a Hessian soldier who was killed in the Revolutionary War, identified himself, he explained that most of the time he liked to stay down in the cellar. His spirit claimed that it was restless because he had been stripped of his clothes at the time of his death so that another soldier might use them. Wilhelm had been humiliated by being buried in his underwear, so he was searching for a proper uniform to wear in the afterlife. The restaurant's maitre de had little sympathy for Wilhelm's plight, however. He had seen the ghost on so many occasions that he finally told Johnson that he would no longer venture down to the cellar.
In addition to Wilhelm, who manifested at the 1972 seance, there was a little boy ghost, who cried for his lost mother; two female entities who had worked at the inn and had died young under bizarre circumstances; eight other Hessian soldiers who had once been quartered at the inn and who had died nearby in battle; a Native American who seemed primarily to be observing the others; and an African American who was an entity of few words. Many customers and employees had seen the spirits of the Hessians over the years. Usually they played harmless pranks, such as blowing on the necks of young women, but one of their spectral number enjoyed terrifying anyone whose job it was to stay after closing and clean up.
Ludwig, the spirit of another Hessian soldier, materialized for many nights at 2:00 A.M. in the bedroom of Mike Benio, a contractor who also had psychic abilities. The entity appealed to Benio to unearth his bones, which had been buried in the basement of the inn, and give them a proper burial in a cemetery. When Johnson returned from a vacation, Benio asked permission to excavate a certain area of the cellar that was under the parking lot. Here, Benio found a small, unknown room that contained fragments of pottery and some human bones. After giving the remains a proper burial, the ghost of Ludwig was at peace and no longer manifested at the General Wayne Inn.
On one occasion, when Johnson wished to test the claims made during the seance that the Hessian soldiers frequented the inn's bar after closing time, he placed a tape recorder in the room. The next morning during playback, Johnson could clearly hear the sounds of bar stools being moved about, the water faucet being turned on and off, and glasses catching the water. Some nights later, on a Monday night when the bar was closed for the entire evening, a customer looking in the inn's front window claimed to have seen a man dressed in a Revolutionary War-era Hessian's uniform, sitting slumped at the bar.
Jim Webb and his partner Guy Sileo bought the inn in 1995. When Webb was found murdered in his office on December 27, 1996, and Felicia Moyse, a 20-year-old assistant chef, committed suicide on February 22, 1997, some people felt that the place had added two more ghosts to its roster. Others recalled that one of the General Wayne Inn's most frequent customers in 1839 would have found the growing ghostly and gory history of the place to be right up his alley. The guest in question was Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), who scratched his initials on a window of the inn in 1843.